CC Sabathia graduates from simulated games to exhibition games Friday against the Marlins at George Steinbrenner Field.

“When it counts I want to be out there, but when it doesn’t I don’t mind pitching on the back fields,” the Yankees ace said following a 52-pitch simulated game yesterday morning.

Considering they lost Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira in the first 11 days of the exhibition season, never said hello to Alex Rodriguez and still have not seen Phil Hughes pitch in a game, the Yankees don’t need Sabathia to have an issue with his surgically repaired left elbow.

As he prepares to face the Red Sox on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, Sabathia has increased the effort in simulated games.

“No pain and no problems,’’ Sabathia said of yesterday’s session. “I felt like I was throwing a little bit harder than the last time out. Hopefully, I can get stronger and velocity gets better every time and I will have something to work with instead of 88 [mph] this year.’’